I must admit I had low expectations of Internal Fire Museum of Power.
Its name sounded as if it had been thought up by a marketing agency to try to sex up a rather dull collection of small stationary diesel engines in a barn in a remote corner of Wales. How wrong I was.
In fact the museum occupies four large buildings and is a nationally important collection of engines of all sizes — in a remote corner of Wales.
I particularly liked the fact that most of them are displayed in replica engine rooms which, whilst they may not be totally historically accurate, give a very good impression of how the engines must have looked in their original contexts. I can't recommend it too highly.
For opening times, admission prices and much more, please see the museum's official site.
Most of the engines have, or will be restored to full working order, and many of them were running when I visited.
The Pocket Power Station
One of the most interesting exhibits, I thought, was the Pocket Power Station from Princetown in Devon. This was the first of its kind in the world. It used a Bristol Siddely Proteus Jet engine to drive an alternator producing an output of 2.7 megawatts (down rated from an initial 3 Mw).
It could be started and stopped remotely over the telephone network using what must be one of the very first modems, and was used to cover peaks in demand such as cold spells.
Designed by the then chairman of the South Western Electricity Board, Mr A N Irens, formerly Chief Electrical Engineer at the British Aeroplane Company, it was commissioned on 11th December 1957. It was decommissioned and donated to the museum in 2003. Thanks to the work of volunteers the engine was restored, and in 2010 it received an IME Engineering Heritage Award.
A recent addition is the Steam Hall. At the time of my visit (2017) they were still installing the boiler (and External Fire) to drive the four engines currently exhibited.
The largest of these is a 1934 Hathorn Davey "baby" triple expansion engine. This is the little brother of the one a Twyford Waterworks.
As well as the engines, one building is given over to a collection of ship's radio rooms, telephone exchanges, telephones and other telecommunications equipment.